Orchard Manufacturing Co. in Rowville, Melbourne Building, Australian Commercial Project, Architecture Images
Orchard Manufacturing Co. in Rowville, Victoria
8 May 2020
Architects: BENT Architecture
Location: Rowville, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Orchard Manufacturing offers a new approach to factory design, one which creates a happy and healthy workplace inspired by nature.
As a company, Orchard Manufacturing espouse a natural ethos, yet it’s hard to imagine an environment further removed from nature than a manufacturing plant! Inspired by the ideology of artist and activist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, this new production facility is different. It takes the spirit of the surrounding natural world and weaves it through the interior of an existing warehouse shell.
“The spiral lies at that very point where inanimate matter is transformed into life. I am convinced, for example, that the act of creation has the nature of a spiral. The true spiral is not geometric but vegetative. It has swellings, becomes thinner and thicker and flows around obstacles who are in her way.”
– Friedensreich Hundertwasser
Harnessing the vegetative spirals of Hundertwasser, the spirit of the landscape – expressed through colour and texture – is encouraged to flow from the nearby indigenous reserve into the interior of the production facility. These elements ebb and flow around the interior, informing the selection of finishes and materials and even inspiring naturally undulating floors.
The project creates an engaging and vibrant work environment, the antithesis of the sterile and oppressive environments we typically associate with production facilities. Colour, texture and organic shapes create an uplifting and exciting space, bringing a smile to employee’s and visitor’s faces alike.
The brief for this project was to create an innovative and engaging workplace that would not only meet the practical needs of a new production facility for Orchard Manufacturing but would also reflect the natural origins of the company.
Orchard Manufacturing is a national health company specialising in the production of fruit-based laxatives. Practically, the brief called for a series production and administrative spaces that would typically be quite separate in this type of building – sometimes in completely different buildings on other sides of the city. Our approach was to integrate and, where possible, overlap these functions in order to create a cohesive working environment, where employees from different parts of the company were brought together as one.
The creation of an inspiring work environment that represented the natural ethos of the company was an essential part of the brief. The existing building was adjacent to a nature reserve, yet there was no interaction or relationship between the industrial building and its natural landscape. Incorporating the natural landscape in an interior environment that is, by necessity, sterile is problematic. Our approach was to take the spirit of the surrounding natural world and weave it through the interior of the existing warehouse shell, using colour, texture and organic forms to create an uplifting and exciting space, bringing a smile to employee’s and visitor’s faces alike.
Meeting stringent health and safety requirements and providing the practical needs of a working production facility while upending the traditional design approach was the biggest challenge. Moving from a function-first to a people-first approach meant actively choosing to do things differently and different is always more challenging because ideas are untested.
In spite of these challenges, we were confident we could develop solutions which would be practical and functional, but also respect and honour the staff who work in this environment.
Beyond the passive design principles we incorporate into every project, this project was all about social sustainability: creating a sustainable workplace by connecting people to light and natural materials.
Large windows within the walls of the production areas create visual connections to other parts of the facility and allow natural light to filter through from roof lights in the warehouse. Of course, this reduces the need for artificial lighting, but importantly gives employees (particularly shift workers) a connection to the natural rhythms of day and night, improving the health and well-being of staff.
The design also aims to break down hierarchies and give everyone a sense of belonging to the one company. Flows established in linework and decorative expression reinforce the connection between the different parts of the organisation. The production area in this scenario is the spiral referred to in Hundterwasser’s quote; the point where the products are created. The journey through the interior spaces culminates in this via the elevated walkway.
Our material selection was based on renewable and/or recyclable priorities. We used Australian FSC-certified hardwoods throughout the design because it’s renewable and has a low-carbon footprint.
This design is a paradigm-shifting approach to the design of production facilities; the creation of a new type of workplace. Traditionally, the arrangement of a production plant is subservient only to the needs of the manufacturing process with little care for the human experience. This new approach recognises the needs of workers and the potential to embody the identity of a company.
Colourful linework extending from the adjacent nature reserve and culminating in a giant mural in the heart of the production area draws staff and visitors alike through the interior on a journey to a new type of workplace. Native Australian Hardwoods and textured surfaces flow from the landscape into the interior, brought to life through touch and natural light. Where you would expect only concrete and steel, hard and cold surfaces, there’s also timber, textural tiles, colour, and undulating floors. Most importantly, there is spatial layering, with generous windows and walkway connections both physically and visually connecting disparate parts of the building and connecting all employees, irrespective of their role within the company.
Meeting rooms overlook the factory floor and production staff can see (and wave to) visitors entering below. The result is a site-responsive and engaging workplace which allows productivity and human experience to co-exist; a production facility that reflects the natural ethos of the company and a healthy and engaging workplace for all. It sets a new benchmark for manufacturing workplace design where a company’s success is indelibly linked to the human experience of its staff.
Orchard Manufacturing Co. in Rowville, Victoria – Building Information
Architects: BENT Architecture
Project size: 2950 sqm
Site size: 9325 sqm
Completion date: 2019
Building levels: 2
Structural Engineer: Clive Steele Partners
Builder: Rossiter Constructions
Photography © Tatjana Plitt
Orchard Manufacturing Co. in Rowville, Melbourne images / information received 080520
Location: Rowville, Victoria, Australia
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